Finland and Canada tackle diabetes problem

Finnish and Canadian researchers are joining forces in order to study the complications caused by type 1 and type 2 diabetes, for instance, the scientists will look into cardiovascular
complications such as heart attacks, which kill as many as 70% to 80% of diabetics.

‘We are anxious to address these pressing problems strategically in a timely and coordinated fashion,’ says Dr Peter Liu, scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
(CIHR). ‘These new joint projects will allow Canadian and Finnish health researchers the chance to find innovative solutions in areas where the problems are mutual.’

Both countries have already invested considerably in diabetes research and care and believe that the advances that they have made separately will complement each other. ‘Finland’s competencies
include the availability of extensive patient records and strong history in diabetes and cardiovascular research that enable thorough studies on the impact of various treatment methods on the
development of complications,’ Auli Pere, senior technology adviser at Tekes, points out. ‘Canada has special expertise in topics such as the research and care of diabetes in children.’

‘The projects generate more efficient and individual treatment recommendations,’ Mr Pere adds. ‘We are also expecting new products, but their development cycle is longer.’

The funding provided by Tekes and the CIHR for five years amounts to nearly ?15 million and will support the work done by nine research teams at a number of universities and hospitals in
Finland and Canada in the framework of two projects.

‘We still lack research data on the significance of exercise in the progress of the disease,’ explains Professor Heikki Tikkanen of the University of Helsinki, whose team will be involved in
studying the role of exercise in the prevention of complications and the optimisation of activity level for each patient. ‘Suitable forms of exercise vary from person to person, and we are
trying to determine if excessive exercise can even be detrimental in some cases.’

The second project will analyse the impact of abdominal obesity on the onset of cardiovascular complications. ‘Before we can develop new treatments, we need to study why cardiovascular diseases
are more common among type 2 diabetics,’ Markku Laakso of the University of Kuopio says. ‘The known risk factors only partly explain the increased risk, which is why we are focusing our studies
particularly on the significance of genetic factors, abdominal obesity, insulin resistance and inflammatory reactions in the development of cardiovascular complications in type 2 diabetes.’

According to estimates, 150 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, but many are undiagnosed. The World Health Organisation (WHO) foresees a doubling of that number by the year 2025. In
Canada alone, the authorities estimate that over 2.25 million – about 7% of the population – are affected by the disease. It is the seventh leading cause of death in Canada. In Finland, on the
other hand, there are 250,000 confirmed cases of diabetes and about the same number of undiagnosed diabetics, experts say. Type 1 diabetes or juvenile diabetes is more common in Finland than
anywhere else in the world.

For further information, please visit:

Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes)
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

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